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Iran claims it will hold 'massive' air defense drills over weekend

Iranian Wargames

In this photo released by the semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency, an abandoned war ship, being used as a target, is burning during Revolutionary Guard's maneuver in the Persian Gulf, Iran, Thursday, April 22, 2010. Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard on Thursday started large-scale war games in the Persian Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormuz, state television reported. Iran has been holding military maneuvers in the gulf and the Strait of Hormuz annually since 2006 to show off its military capabilities. (AP Photo/Fars News Agency,Mehdi Marizad)

Iran's official news agency says the country's military will hold "massive" air defense maneuvers in the east, starting this weekend.

Gen. Farzad Esmaili, head of Iran's air defense headquarters, says the drill will include Iranian jet fighters, drones, air defense systems and about 8,000 troops.

Esmaili is quoted by the official IRNA news agency on Thursday as saying that the area of the war games will cover nearly the entire eastern half of Iran. The exercise is to start on Saturday and last seven days.

The maneuvers come amid escalating tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran's suspect nuclear program, which the West fears is a cover for a pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying the program is for peaceful purposes only.